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In St. Luke's gospel the Lord describes the signs which shall terminate the times of the Gentiles, and usher in the coming of the Son of Man with power and great glory; upon which, when they see them come to pass, they are to understand, that their redemption and the kingdom of God are nigh at hand.'b
The advent and the kingdom are connected together when our Lord first declares to the disciples, that it is the good pleasure of their heavenly Father to give them the kingdom; and then exhorts them to sit so loosely to the things of this world, that they may be as men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding.c
That saying of the thief upon the cross is literally in the original, "Lord remember me, when thou comest in (not into) thy kingdom;"d (Μνησθητί με, Κύριε, όταν έλθες EN τη βασιλειά σε.) And finally the Apostle Paul gives a solemn charge to Timothy, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ; "who (he says) shall judge the quick and dead at his appearing and his kingdom;"'e thus making the Epiphany, the kingdom and the judgment of quick and dead synchronous. This view of the time of the kingdom will be further cleared I trust, when I come to consider the place or scene of its manifestation, &c. I shall now therefore bring this paper to a paper to a close; first requesting the Reader, whilst I recapitulate the sum of the argument, to keep his eye upon that
passage in Corinthians-" Then cometh the end, when he shall "have delivered up the kingdom to God, eyen the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power: "When the Son also himself shall “be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may "be all in all."f
b Matt. xxi, 24-31. © Luke xii, 32–36.
1. The kingdom of Christ has evidently a beginning subsequent to the creation of the world, because it is the subject of promise at various periods since; and therefore the unacknowledged sovereignty of God, who ruleth and over-ruleth, cannot be what is intended, because that did exist from the beginning: and further, to this sovereignty there will never be an end. 2. The reign and kingdom of Christ cannot be that spiritual dominion, which he exercises in the hearts of his people; whether it relate to this time, or to a larger measure of it in the Millennium. For first, this spiritual power has been exerted in the hearts of his people from their first acquaintance with him by the Spirit; whereas the kingdom whereof I inquire did not commence, as we have seen, either at the birth or ascension of Christ, but is still future. And secondly, the rule of Christ is to end; whereas this ruling by the Spirit in his people is never to end. It will be
He in them and they in Him” throughout eternity. 3. And if any would nevertheless insist, that the kingdom is no more than a great revival of religion, in the generation which shall live at the Millennium; I oppose those Scriptures so recently quoted, which shew, that the kingdom is introduced by the personal advent of the Lord Jesus. I shall now reply to
d chap. xxiii, 42. e 2 Tim. iv, 1. 24 and 28.
two objections, which I deem it best to anticipate in this place.
1. The kingdom of heaven is spoken of as being "at hand"nigh"- even at the doors;" &c.g Whence some infer, that it must have existed either in our Saviour's time, or soon after. But this is no more than is stated of other events; which we nevertheless believe are even yet to come. For example: The LORD is at hand”—“ the coming of the Lord draweth near". the end of all things is at hand." The former places concerning the kingdom, may indeed have some reference to the work of preparation -the introduction of the gospel kingdom; but they may also be explained in that way, in which we are compelled to explain the latter : viz. by concluding that the Holy Ghost would have us speak of these events in such manner, as that we may stand prepared for them and waiting their approach.
2. Another objection is grounded upon that Scripture, "There be some standing here who shall not “taste of death, until they see the kingdom of God come with power;"h from whence it is concluded that the kingdom must have been set up, and even manifested, before all the persons died, who were then standing in the presence of Jesus. I doubt not but the passage has a direct reference to the glorious manifestation of the kingdom; because St. Matthew calls it " seeing the Son of Man coming in his kingdom"-another proof that the advent and kingdom take place
together but attention to the context, and a comparison with it of another Scripture, will shew, that it is not the commencement of the period of glorious manifestation that is meant; but a visible earnest and specimen of it. This saying, in all the three gospels where it occurs, is immediately followed by the relation, that Jesus, about eight days after (that is, eight days after this saying
as if to mark its connexion with the event narrated) took Peter, James, and John up into a mountain apart, and appeared before them in glory, together some glory, together with Moses and Elijah. And this very transaction St. Peter, who was one of the three, calls, the POWER and COMING of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Majesty of which (he says) he was an eye witness of, when he was with him in the holy mount.k *
3. The last Scripture, which I shall now notice as an objection, is the answer given by our Lord, when demanded of the Pharisees, When the kingdom of God should come. "The kingdom of God "cometh not with observation ; "neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo there! for behold the kingdom of God is within you."l There is an acknowledged difficulty with this passage, whatever interpretation may be given to it; and did it seem to speak more clearly for the other side of the question than it does, yet, considering the mass of testimony brought forward in support of the view I have taken, sound principles of exposition require of us, that we should seek a meaning
h Mark ix, 1. i chap. xvi. 28. k2 Pet.
g Matt. iii, 2; iv, 17; x, 7; Mark i, 15; &c.
* Some explain this specimen of the kingdom as follows: that Moses was the representative of those who rise from the dead with glorified bodies; Elijah, who was translated without seeing death, was the pattern of those who shall be changed when the Lord comes; whilst the apostles were a specimen of men who shall still remain in the flesh.
1 Luke xvii, 20, 21.
in this text reconcileable with and not destructive of the numerous places I have adduced. The ordinary explanation given by commentators is, that the kingdom of God within them, must signify the dominion of grace in the heart; against which interpretation the following exceptions may be taken. First it would imply, that Joseph of Arimathea, who was still waiting for the kingdom,m was without this inward grace, which the Pharisees possessed. Therefore some would interpret it, the kingdom of God is among you: but it does not appear that the word rendered within is ever used by the Greek writers of the Old or New Testaments in the sense contended for; and it is extremely doubtful if profane writers so use it.n Certainly Joseph could not have been waiting for the kingdom, in that spirit of faith which the mention of him seems to imply, unless the kingdom of God had been also within him in a spiritual sense: nor could he with propriety have
been said to be waiting for it, had it been among been among them. And this plainly indicates, that the promises concerning the kingdom are not to be limited to the means of grace, or the work of grace, though they may include it; but that they have a reference to its glorious manifestation and prevalence. In the spiritual sense, the kingdom cometh not with observation; for the spirit is like the wind: we cannot see from whence it but cometh nor whither it goeth in regard to the manifestation of the kingdom, our Lord has described the signs, by which we may observe its approach, and know that the kingdom of God draweth nigh. Let the Reader examine himself, whether he have this spiritual "earnest of the inheritance ;"whether it may be said of him, "that the kingdom of God is not in word only but in power;"-and that God hath thus translated him into the kingdom of his dear "Son."o
Commentators upon the chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which contains the Speech of Stephen before the Jewish Council, have given very conflicting and unsatisfactory expositions of it. The generality of these writers consider the speech as incomplete. Dr. Adam Clarke says, How far St. Stephen would "have proceeded, or to what issue, he would have brought his discourse, we can only conjecture."
m Mark xv, 13. n See Parkhurst on the word erros.
THE SPEECH OF ST. STEPHEN. Acts vii.
Scott calls it—“ rather an introduc"tion to his main subject, than the "whole of his intended discourse." And Doddridge, whilst he condemns Le Clerc, because he charges it with containing much which is not to the purpose,' does nevertheless treat it as imperfect.
I dissent from these conclusions, first, on the ground of internal evidence to the contrary in the discourse itself. For to me it appears con
01 Cor. iv. 20; Col. 1, 13.
cluded, as to the subject matter, at the end of the fiftieth verse; after which commences the peroration : and it is incorrect to say of a speech, which has proceeded through a regular and orderly course, and even enters upon the application, that it is only an exordium, or introduction to the main subject.” My second ground of objection to the view of its being an incomplete discourse, leaving us to conjecture as to its scope or drift, is, that it is not consistent with its being a part of the Revelation of God. I acknowledge, that the Holy Spirit might only design to shew us the murderous character of that selfrighteousness, which led the Jews to interrupt the Martyr in the midst of his harangue, and to stone him to death; but were this the sole object, it could have been accomplished by a mere relation of the fact, -that Stephen made a speech, in the midst of which his enemies broke in upon him and destroyed him. I hold it to be an important axiom, in regard to Scripture, that there is nothing wasted or superfluous in it; and therefore, that, if upwards of fifty long verses are occupied with particulars, the whole of those particulars-every jot and tittle of themare calculated to instruct. indeed happen, that we may not be able to perceive the meaning and intent of them; but this does not follow, that the only point intended to be conveyed by them is, the abstract circumstance that Stephen began a speech and was interrupted in it. We find St. Paul similarly interrupted; they gave him audience down to a certain sentence, and then all was tumult, and they would equally have murdered him, had he not been protected: but in the speech of Paul we may understand the drift of his argument from that portion of it which is related; and
it heightens our surprise at the awful infatuation of that spirit in his enemies, which was only rendered the more malignant and furious by the demonstrations of truth. Nor do
doubt, but the drift of St. Stephen's discourse was understood, and that indirect vein of application felt, which, according to my apprehension, pervades it throughout-independently of the more formal application
at the conclusion.
I am aware that there are incidental difficulties to be met with in this discourse; but with these it is not my intention to meddle, seeing that learned ingenuity and criticism have been lavish upon them. I am also aware, that interpretations are offered by most commentators of the intent and meaning of particular portions: but these again I shall not enter into; for they may be to a certain extent true, and compatible with the principle design of the speech; and yet not that principle design itself. My own opinion is, that so much difficulty would not have been experienced in this matter, had we been more mindful of the things revealed in Scripture concerning the future manifestation of Christ, as king and judge, and the manifestation also of his glorified church. I doubt if the early Fathers experienced the difficulty, which is felt by modern commentators; because their view of divine truth would afford them the ready key to interpretation: and I am the more strengthened in this conclusion by observing, that in Mayer's "Treasury of Ecclesiastical Expositions" of doubtful and difficult places in the four Gospels and Acts of the Apostles; (a scarce work, printed in 1622, containing the glosses of the early Fathers;) though he brings forward many extracts respecting these difficulties, which arise from apparent discrepancies between the Septua
gint and Hebrew copies of the Scriptures, &c. no difficulty is hinted at in regard to the drift and scope of the discourse itself. I offer however the following brief observations on the chapter, rather in the way of humble conjecture than otherwise; having a greater desire to elicit the opinions of your readers, than to impose my own.
First must be noticed the state of of the Jewish mind at this period in regard to Christ. St. Paul tells us, that it was Christ crucified, which was the stumbling block to them.
Cor. i, 23.) The more malignant opposers of Christianity conceived, that it had received its death blow by the execution of its Leader: whilst those who were disposed to consider the wonderful circumstances daily challenging attention, were yet expecting of their Messiah “that he "would restore the kingdom unto Israel;" in regard to which expectation they would be confounded by the death of Christ, and the humble and persecuted state of his followers. The first and main object, therefore, of St. Stephen seems to be, to exhibit the greatest of the Fathers, and the more eminent types of Christ, as also the Church, passing through a previous state of trial and affliction; their hope being sustained throughout, or their ultimate triumph accomplished; and the punishment also following of those, who became their persecutors.
hopeless condition ;—that he had no child when the promise of a seed to him was made; and that instead of possessing the land, God gave him not then so much as to set his foot on. And Abraham finally died in circumstances, which appeared as desperate as those of Christ ;—“ he
obtained a good report through faith, but he received not the "promise:" and the expectation of the orthodox Jews therefore was (as appears from the works of the Rabbins,) that Abraham, and those patriarchs who had not possessed the land, would still inherit it at the resurrection of the dead.
In regard to a portion of the seed, they enjoyed possession of the land by way of type and earnest to the rest; but these also (as is shewn by verses 6, 7, and afterwards in verses 17-19,) had to pass first through the furnace of affliction; next their oppressors were judged; and then they came forth and served him in that land. All this is an exact type of what had to befall the Christian church: they were to beled into bondage and to be evil entreated; their oppressors have to be judged ; and after that they shall come forth."
2. Having in verse 8 introduced the twelve patriarchs, in verse 9-16 he singles out JOSEPH, so eminent a type of a suffering Christ, that some of the Rabbins figure two Christs-one to be Messiah Ben Joseph, the other Messiah Ben David. He begins by noticing the envy of the brethren of Joseph, so exactly paralleled by that of the Jews towards Christ; of which it is written, that Pilate "knew that for envy they had delivered him." Joseph was ultimately to be exalted, but he must first like his antitype " be made perfect through suffering." To human eye he was now smitten of God and forsaken; but Stephen notices, that nevertheless "God was with
1. He begins with ABRAHAM, with whom God first made the covenant of promise, and of whom they boasted-" We be Abraham's seed." To the end of verse 8 he shews, that God had promised to give the land to him for a possession and to his seed; which promise he eminently confirmed by the covenant of circumcision ;-that, notwithstanding this, the affairs of Abraham continued, humanly speaking, in a